“No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”   – Socrates

Fact: DID YOU KNOW… many children in the US are way too sedentary…

Unless you are disconnected from the modern world..I promise you hear this shocking fact every day. Research, morning news reporters, doctors, now even our boss…we can’t escape…people are lecturing us left and right in efforts to motivate us into motion.

Shows how much it’s helping…

We all know we need to be more physically active – and we certainly understand how critical it is for child development and of course our personal health – but that doesn’t seem to get our butt off the coach.

Last time I checked  – after reading the latest research, listening to the morning news reporter, or leaving my yearly check-up – I didn’t miraculously levitate and end up on a treadmill (that would be nice though!…someone invent that).

Obviously we’ve become immune to it….

-Maybe you could care less (it’s not worth it)
-You value other things more (*cough cough* that nightly long awaited bowl of ice cream)
-It will never happen to you – (out of the many thousands of subscribers…I guess there’s a chance you could be in the 3.5%…yes 3.5% of adults who do the minimum amount of physical activity (PA) recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services (150 minutes a week of moderate activity))

Let’s look at this differently…

42% of children (6-11 y/o) engage in the recommended 60 minutes of PA most days of the week…ok…at least some of them our moving (I’m sure it’s your kid, right?)

..Hit adolescence (12-19 y/o ) and the percentage significantly drops to 8%!

42% – 8%?! Seriously…what is going on that makes someone stop?

SELFMOTIVATION

-It’s more than an Monday Motivational newsletter (even though this is great, right?!)
-It’s more than shaming kids on their weight and lack of play time with friends
-And it’s more that yelling at them for spending a stunning 6-8 hours a day on their screens and forcing exercise upon them by taking away their electronics, phones and TV’s

…and don’t even think about using poor sports performance as a motivator to get them out practicing more.

If Americans know exercise is so good for them, why don’t they take the message to heart as they did the exhortations against smoking? And if exercise makes people feel so good, why don’t they just do it?” – Gina Kolato

Research is beginning to point at something new – the message. Obviously the current ones have no effect on us.

It’s a lot easier on you if you make it so kids WANT to do be active.

How many times do you yell at your kids “go play outside”….”in a minute!”…

You don’t want to yell, they don’t want to be yelled at. Simple.

Make them want to do it. YES..make them want to go play, enjoy themselves and be active. I know..a difficult phenomenan to wrap our heads around.

The key: Giving kids and teens autonomy toward their choice of being active.

A recent study out of UGA discovered teens who don’t feel in control of their exercise choices or who feel pressured by adults to be more active, typically do not engage in physical activity.

The same research found that middle school students were less likely to be physically active if they didn’t feel in control of their exercise choices or if they felt pressured by adults to get more exercise.

“Can we put these children in situations where they come to value and enjoy the act of being physically active?” – Dr. Rod Dishman

Dishman explains just how there are kids that are more drawn to music or art, the same exists for physical activity. So we need to find a way to draw in those kids.

Above all, parents and teachers shouldn’t make children feel guilty for not being physically active.

Dishman’s research studying the Motivation and Behavioral Regulation of Physical Activity found that this developmental period during youth and adolescence was highly critical because physical activity declines without intervention, and self-identities are sensitive to social influences.

The results suggested that motivation for physical activity became more autonomous (i.e. exercising because they enjoyed it, it was a part of their sense of self, or it made them feel good) for some children as they moved through middle school, but introjected regulation (internalized social pressures to be active…like from classmates, parents, news, etc.) also became much more influential.

This is where things could be going wrong. This type of motivation is not effective for long-term adherence…

All these people telling us to be active is actually detrimental “This can result in anxiety, guilt, and shame, which might be detrimental to psychological development and health in some children.” Needless to say, this is not regarded as a desirable target for interventions to increase physical activity.

However, there were strong correlations providing additional evidence on the importance of children’s self-identity for physical activity during a transition period when identities are especially malleable…meaning parents, peers, coaches, and environment play a huge role in establishing a lifelong physically active life…and love it.

Key Points:

  • To get your kids moving allow them to find an activity they enjoy.
  • Immersing kids in fun, enjoyable activity early on allows them engage in an environment where it is part of how they see and express themselves
  • Let them do something they love (whether it be because of friends, the activity, weather…anything!) so they see value, and the enjoyable return they continually receive. The intrinsic motivation will follow.

The most important piece: It’s more than just getting them active, the social component, the life skills, the importance of healthy developments, the learned aspects through team sports..the reason it is so important to have kids enjoy and want to be active at a young age is that you are instilling lifelong habits….

This leads us to part 2 next week – how to get yourself moving.

I love this question by Dishman, “Can we put these children in situations where they come to value and enjoy the act of being physically active? – Now apply it to yourself..what are you doing to allow yourself the chance to value and enjoy being active.. how can you share that excitement with others?
Written by Amanda Presgraves. Amanda is a senior Kinesiology major, Division I student-athlete and entrepreneur at James Madison University. As an advocate of health and personal growth, she’s on a constant pursuit to optimize life and inspire others through her commitment to healthy living. If you can’t find Amanda bouncing between the classroom, pool, kitchen, or volunteering, you can find her online as she continues to lead and motivate others towards a happier and improved life at COR through her article contributions, newsletters and community motivation. (@amandapgraves, linkedin).